This review was written for the cablecast of "Avenging Angel."
9 p.m. Saturday, July 7
Don't piss off a preacher man. He's liable to come back at you as the cold, calculating, soulless killer you've always feared. This is the message we can glean from "Avenging Angel," a Hallmark Channel original (I don't think we're in family land anymore, Toto) airing Saturday night that stars ex-"Hercules" hunk Kevin Sorbo as the aforementioned man of God-turned-godless vigilante.
Set in the Texas hill country of 1875, the Western saga details the fallout when a contemptuous land baron (a great snarling turn by Wings Hauser) tries to cheat a group of homesteading squatters out of land they purchased from him fair and square. He dynamites the town church and in the process murders the wife and young daughter of the preacher (Sorbo), who plots his revenge after three years of grieving. In the Hallmark world, murderous rampages aren't something one can rush.
The preacher man returns to take care of the geeky gunslingers who done him wrong and at the same time enjoy the bonus of some agreeable female companionship in the form of Maggie (Cynthia Watros), a reformed saloon girl and prostitute trying to raise her daughter in peace and quiet.
Written by William Sims Myers and directed by David S. Cass Sr., the film holds our interest just fine with its time-tested formula of good triumphing over evil -- and a subtext of taking care of business yourself when the Lord fails you. But it also is clear that our hero ain't exactly dealing with scholars here. When he rides into town, the leader of the henchmen (Nick Chinlund) knows he has seen this guy someplace before but can't place it.
Yeah, all it takes is a hat and three days' worth of stubble to become utterly unrecognizable. It leads to the inescapable conclusion that this God-forsaken dump doesn't need cleaning up so much as an optometrist.